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SAT Reading Comprehension Section

Fill in sentences & think critically about what you read.

One of the SAT’s three sections is devoted to reading comprehension.  This test measures critical and analytic reading abilities. Its most common questions focus on sentence completion and text comprehension.

The SAT reading comprehension section is divided into three timed subsections:

  • 25 minute section (includes 8 sentence completions and 16 reading comprehension questions)
  • 25 minute section (includes 5 sentence completions and 19 reading comprehension questions)
  • 20 minute section (includes 6 sentence completions and 13 reading comprehension questions)

Sentence Completion

SAT sentence completion questions are designed to test your knowledge of vocabulary and sentence structure. They are typically fill-in-the-blank, requiring you to choose the word that fits best in the sentence. The sentences are of varying length and complexity and tend to increase in difficulty as the test progresses.

Reading Comprehension

As its name implies, the SAT reading comprehension test assesses your ability to read and think critically about a text. These texts are usually nonfiction, although excerpts from well-known literature are also quoted. Most excerpts are between 100 and 800 words, varying in complexity and depth.

This section targets three basic skills:

  • Vocabulary in context (how and when certain words are used in a passage)
  • Literal comprehension (your understanding of what the text actually means)
  • Extended reasoning (your ability to make inferences, recognize implications and follow an argument’s logical development)

When reading these excerpts, it is important to pay attention to the author’s tone and how he or she constructs an argument. More common literary analysis — such as symbolism or theme — is secondary to structural, logical and semantic evaluation.

What’s an easy way to prepare for the SAT reading comprehension section? Increase your vocabulary. Read, learn new words and (of course) take practice tests.

Want to know what to expect on parts of the reading comprehension section? Try our FREE SAT reading and writing practice questions. You’ll get detailed answers to every question to help you prepare for the test.

Scoring the SAT Reading Comprehension Test

As with the other two sections of the SAT exam (the math section and the essay & writing section), 800 is the highest score you can get on the reading comprehension test. The national average is about 497.